Toggle mobile menu visibility

Fire safety guidance for parents and carers

Each year many families have their homes destroyed and property damaged in fires started both accidentally and deliberately by children.

Many parents are concerned that their child may start playing with fire.

By understanding the circumstances that lead children to start fires and by following a few simple fire safety practices, you can reduce the chances of your child starting a destructive fire.

Thanks to Essex Fire and Rescue Service and West Norfolk Accident Prevention Group for the production of this information.

Remember - teaching fire-safe behaviour and helping children overcome fear and curiosity about fire is a gradual process that should occur under proper adult supervision and guidance.

Children and fire

Children are fascinated by fire; the warm glow of a fireplace, blowing out birthday candles, watching the repetitive habit of an adult lighting up a cigarette. Children as young as two-years-old may show an interest in fire.

Parents/guardians need to take fire safety precautions with younger children and to educate and train older children in fire safety.


Young children (five-years-old or younger)

  • Keep matches and lighters out of sight and out of children's reach. Use child proof matches and lighters 
  • Teach children that if they find matches or lighters to take them to a known adult. Reward or praise them when they do
  • If a child is seen with matches or a lighter, use an emphatic 'no' followed by a simple explanation such as: "No, matches/lighters are hot and they can burn/hurt you."
  • Supervise children at all times when they are in a room where there is a fireplace, lit candle, portable heater or other open flame or hot surface.
  • Never use a cigarette lighter as a toy to pacify a child who is crying or causing a disturbance


Older children (six-years-old and over)

Fire safety skills should be one of the essential survival skills taught to children, along with swimming and road safety.

  • Teach older children both the usefulness and the destructive force of fire, as well as fire safe behaviour. Older children can understand that fire is dangerous, however most children do not realise that clothes can burn or that the carpet, bedding or furniture can catch fire and set light to the whole house
  • Teach children to prevent fire in the home and recognise the sound of smoke alarms
  • Set a good example. Children often imitate adults, so make sure that you follow fire safety rules. For example when you use a match, light a fireplace, use candles or cook
  • If there are smokers in the house, or if visitors or babysitters smoke, ensure that matches and lighters are kept out of reach
  • Teach and train the message that "a match is a tool not a toy". The statement "don't play with matches" gives no positive information and does not explain the safe use of matches or fire
  • Parents and guardians can encourage older children to participate in normal fire activities, for instance by lighting birthday candles, fireplaces and bonfires in the presence of an adult


If you suspect your child has a problem with fire

If you suspect your child has a problem with fire contact Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service to discuss a possible home visit.

Members of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service may seek further help or advice from other approved agencies to meet the further needs of protection of children.